This contemporary paranormal romance by Carrie Jones is the first book in the " Need" series and is published by Bloomsbury USA Children's, a division of Bloomsbury USA.
Need is written for kids ages 12 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Zara White is devastated by her stepfather's unexpected death. After months of grieving, she doesn't seem to be able to move on. Her mother sends Zara to Maine to live with her stepfather's mother, Betty. Both her mother and Betty are worried about Zara's mental health and hope the change will help her. In addition to her depression, Zara has developed the habit of listing the technical names for phobias as a way to keep her own fears and emotions at bay.
On the way home from the airport, Betty swerves to miss a man by the side of the road. Zara is shocked and admits to Betty that she's seen that same man near her home in Charleston. Betty makes Zara promise to stay indoors at night, behind locked doors. There's already been one disappearance in that small town, and Betty wants to make sure Zara is safe.
Zara starts school the following day and immediately makes friends with several of students. One, Nick Colt, sets Zara's heart fluttering every time he comes near her. The other, Issie, is a small girl with endless energy. Another boy, Ian, takes an interest in Zara as well, but he warns her to stay away from Nick who, he claims, has a tendency to be overprotective and a jerk. Zara asks about a girl who's been glaring at her all day, and Ian tells her it's Megan Crowley. When Zara wonders why Megan hates her so much already, Ian jokes that it's the way Zara smells. He quickly covers his comment by telling her that Megan likes Nick and so is probably jealous.
At lunch, Zara sits with Issie and her friend Devyn, a handsome boy confined to a wheelchair after a recent accident. Zara spots the same creepy figure watching her from the woods outside. Devyn sees him, too, and when the man points toward them, Devyn panics. Zara assures him that the man is pointing at her and rushes out to confront him just as a huge dog chases him into the woods. Zara admits to the others that she knows the man has followed her from Charleston. Devyn tells her that he will do some research and see if he can discover anything that could help her.
Zara goes to Issie's house after school to see what Devyn found out on the school computer. His theory is a bizarre one. He thinks the man following Zara is a pixie. They are not the little winged creatures she always thought. They can move incredibly fast, and the pixie king leaves gold dust behind. At first Zara is convinced they are joking, but her friends are serious. She also remembers that she found gold dust by her car that morning. Still not convinced he's a supernatural creature, Zara begins to think he's a serial killer who leaves gold dust as his calling card.
Zara's car slides off the icy road on the way home. The sun is almost down when Nick finds her. His pleasant demeanor changes as his gaze is drawn toward the forest. He tells Zara to stay in the car. She resents his orders and tries to convince him to take her home so she can call a tow truck. It's then she sees a shadow jump from the road ahead into the forest. Even though she knows Nick saw the figure, he refuses to admit it. He manages to push her car back onto the road.
Before long, Zara sees the figure, again, and she tries to run after him. The man disappears, but Zara finds the gold dust he left behind. She tells Nick about Devyn's theory and that she believes the stranger is a psycho using gold dust as a calling card. Nick walks her back to the car, and Zara sees gold dust clinging to his jacket.
Nick follows her to her driveway to make sure she gets home safe. Zara must face Betty, who is angry that she came home after dark. Zara is forgiven when she explains about sliding off the road. She then asks her grandmother about the missing boy. Betty explains that he was out alone at night and never came home. The police and search parties didn't find any clues to his disappearance. After a pause, Betty says she thinks the young boy ran away, but then admits that something like this happened many years ago. That night Zara wakes up to find her grandmother staring out the window into the dark. Betty convinces her that everything is under control and that she should go back to bed. Zara dreams about her stepfather. When she wakes up, she recalls the morning he died. They had just come home from a run. Zara went to get some water. When she returned, her stepfather was staring at the window in fear. Short of breath, he told Zara to run and to not let him take her. Then he collapsed.
At school the following day, Zara tells Issie and Devyn that she believes their pixie theory. They decide to do some more research on the school computer. They discover that pixies are more like vampires than fairies and that weres (humans who shift into other animals) are their mortal enemies. Pixies can use a spell called a glamour to appear human. If the pixie king doesn't mate with a queen, he will demand young men be sacrificed to him so he can drink their blood. Zara thinks the stories are fantasies, but Issie, Devyn and Nick believe them.
The four go to the town library the following day to find more books on pixies. One tells of the pixies' Celtic heritage and how sometimes a pixie king will choose his queen from the human race. Usually this woman will have some unknown pixie blood. If the king goes too long without a queen, he will begin to lose power over his domain; the other pixies will roam the woods looking for blood tributes. A note in the margins warns the teens to stay away from the forest. Another note references a page number and a line of poetry, but they don't know from what poem. Zara believes her stepfather wrote the message.
In the evening, Zara's grandmother, who works as an EMT, must leave on a call. She warns Zara to lock the doors and stay in the house. Betty also calls Nick to come over. Zara decides to ignore Betty's advice. She texts Nick to let him know she's going for a run. Since she's not a boy, she thinks she'll be safe if the mystery man is a pixie. She hopes, if she does meet him, he might tell her why he's been following her. As Zara runs on a deserted road, her wish comes true. Although she can't see the man, he calls to her. Zara tries to overcome the irrational paranoia in her body. She begs the man to come out and show himself. If he's a pixie, she warns, and he wants her for his queen, he's got to stop torturing young men. She feels his presence nearing, but before he appears, she must jump into a ditch on the side of the road to avoid being run over by Nick. He takes her back to Betty's house and bandages a cut on her cheek.
The school secretary wonders at Zara's wound. After learning that Zara was outside at night and running alone, she warns her to wear her coat inside out the next time as protection. Zara can't question her further as the secretary must answer the telephone. In art class, Nick tells her that his parents are photographers on assignment in Africa. She is surprised to learn he lives alone, but he doesn't seem bothered. Devyn finds them and tells him more of what he's found out from his research. It seems that once the pixie king has picked his queen, he kisses her. If the woman has some pixie blood, she will become a pixie herself, and he will possess some of her soul. If she is fully human, the kiss will kill her. Zara has a difficult time believing this, although a part of her fears it may be true. Before leaving school, they learn that the police are searching for another missing boy. Nick drives Zara home as a snowstorm begins. The two have a heart-to-heart conversation in which they admit they're attracted to each other. Nick leans in to kiss Zara, but stops suddenly. He orders her into the house and runs into the woods. Zara is left to wonder what happened.
While she waits for Nick, Zara looks up more information about pixies and learns that they don't like iron. She realizes that a bracelet Betty gave her to wear is made of iron and figures her grandmother knows about pixies. Zara opens the door of the house to look for Nick, but there's no sign of him. She does hear the strange voice from the night before, asking her to follow him. Drawn by its command, Zara puts her coat on and runs into the woods. She tries to get the mystery person to answer her questions, but he only calls to her and asks her to follow him. Frightened by the voice and by the howls of a dog, Zara tries to find her way out of the forest but realizes she's lost. She remembers the weird advice to turn her coat inside out. When she does that, she is able, by following the howls of the dog, to find her way back. Once in her yard, she sees the giant dog that helped guide her home. An arrow has wounded the animal. Zara coaxes the beast inside to take care of him. The vet's phone has been disconnected, so Zara calls her grandmother for help. Over the phone, Betty instructs her on how to remove the arrow and bandage the wound. Betty warns Zara to stay inside and not look for Nick. Betty will also call the police so they can start the search for him. As the storm outside worsens and the power goes off in the house, Zara decides to ignore Betty's advice. She dons some of Betty's old winter gear and heads to the door, only to find that the dog has disappeared and a naked man now lies on the couch.
The man turns out to be Nick. It becomes evident that Nick is a werewolf. When Zara asks if there are any other weres in the town, he tells her that Betty is a weretiger. Zara is overwhelmed by the sudden chain of events but can't deny the evidence in front of her. The police arrive and are relieved they don't have to search for Nick in the storm. They take down a description of the man Zara has seen following her. Once they leave, Nick predicts they'll never catch the pixie king because he doesn't leave a trail. When Betty gets home, she checks on Nick's wound to find it almost healed. Betty informs them that Zara's mother wants her to return to Charleston because of recent events, but Zara refuses. She and Nick are a couple now, and she knows he will keep her safe.
Nick stays overnight, and in the morning, he makes pancakes for Zara after Betty goes to work. He pulls an old book from the shelf to read while waiting for Zara to wake up. Zara has read it before and remembers one of the stories in it. It has the same name as the quote her stepfather wrote in the book about pixies. When she opens the book, a note from her stepfather falls out. He wrote it to Betty years ago. In the note he explains about the pixie king's need and how if he doesn't satisfy it with a queen, he loses control of both himself and his court. Her stepfather also says that he and Zara's mother had to leave because the pixie king was angry about their deal. He warns that if the king's lust becomes too great, he will be able to walk in the daylight. Zara's skin begins to crawl just as it has every time she's seen the pixie. She and Nick make sure all the doors and windows are locked, and then they hide in her bedroom.
Nick can sense at least five pixies outside the house, with one of them being the king. At first Zara is relieved to learn they can't enter unless they've been invited, and she knows she won't ask them in. But then they hear footsteps on the stairs followed by a knock on her bedroom door. The pixie king has been asked inside in the past. Nick transforms into a wolf so he can better protect Zara, but he warns her not to open the door under any circumstance. She is peeved at his order until she hears the voice of her stepfather asking to be let inside. Her stepfather pleads with her, and Zara's grieving heart almost believes that maybe in this crazy place where werewolves and pixies exist, her loved one may have come back to life. Nick, as a wolf, blocks her way to the door, and eventually Zara realizes that the pixie king is trying to trick her. She refuses to let him in. In his frustration, he trashes the house and leaves.
Snow continues to fall outside. Nick decides that since they are without power or phones they should try and get to Issie and Devyn so they can work out a plan to combat the pixies. Unable to drive because the roads haven't been plowed, Nick and Zara snowshoe to find their friends. Instead of finding help, they are snared by nets. Zara is knocked unconscious. She wakes up in a barren room with only a mattress on the floor. Someone has taken her shoes and her coat; she knows she can't escape without risking hypothermia in the storm. She is surprised when Ian enters the room. He admits that he and Megan are pixies. He also tells her that her father is the pixie king. He and the pixie king are in a turf war. Ian wants to turn Zara into a pixie so he can become the new king. He tries to kiss her, but she pushes him away and runs for the door. In his anger, he catches her and throws her across the room. Her arm is broken when she hits the wall. She passes out even as she struggles against Ian's kiss.
When she finally regains consciousness, she is in the hospital. Her grandmother and Nick have rescued her from the pixies. Zara calls her mother, who is trying desperately to find a flight to Maine. Zara's mother admits that the pixie king is Zara's father, but Zara is still human because her mother refused to let him kiss her. Had they stayed in Maine, the pixie king would have forced Zara's mother to turn into a pixie so he could have a soul mate. She hid in Charleston, hoping he wouldn't find her. When he did, she assumed he would stay down there to try and turn her. That's why she sent Zara to Maine. She thought she'd be safer there. In her anger, Zara hangs up on her.
Zara is released from the hospital the following day and returns home with Betty. Nick, Issie and Devyn arrive, and she starts to tell them her plan to trick the pixie king and free the two boys who have been taken as blood tributes. Before that, however, Betty reveals that Zara may have pixie blood in her since her father is the pixie king. Nick is enraged at this. Devyn and Issie try to follow him as he storms out of the house. In the quiet, Betty explains that Zara's mother agreed to sleep with the pixie king to stop him from taking boys as blood tributes. She hoped that would be enough to satisfy him, but now the need is back, and he is using Zara as bait to draw her mother back to Maine, where he is more powerful. He needs to turn Zara's mother into his queen so that he can maintain his position.
Betty and Zara know the pixie king is bugging the house. They know he will come for Zara if he believes she's alone. Betty pretends to get an emergency call, and Zara's father, the pixie king, arrives soon after she leaves. Zara agrees to go with him to his mansion, hidden in the woods by means of magic. Once they're outside, Zara waits for Betty to rescue her, but the pixie king begins to fly with Zara in his arms. Betty is too slow, and Zara is on her own to escape from him. He brings her to a clearing. At first she can't see his house, but then the glamour disappears, and his mansion materializes. When she turns back to her father, she sees him as he really appears. He is no longer a tall, dark-haired man but a blue skinned pixie with silver eyes and pointed teeth. She follows him inside and meets the pixie court. He leaves her to prepare for her mother's arrival, but tells her where one of the missing boys is being held. Zara finds him, barely alive and tied to a bed. She frees him, and the two make their way down the stairs. Before they can escape, Zara's mother arrives. She offers to give herself to the pixie king to become his queen if he'll let Zara and the boy go. He agrees, and the pixies throw them out into the snow. Nick and Betty, as a wolf and tiger, bring them back to Betty's house, where Zara informs them of her plan to rescue her mother and trap the pixies. Since iron hurts pixies, they'll place iron utensils and wire around the house so the pixies are trapped inside.
Zara gathers her "army" together, which consists of Betty, Nick, Devyn, Issie and the school secretary, who happens to shift into a bear. They surround the pixie king's mansion with barbed wire. By the time the pixies notice what they're doing, it's too late. They cannot cross the wire barrier without the iron burning their skin. Zara's mother has not been turned yet, so she is free to leave. The pixie king tries to get Zara to reconsider. The pixies will kill each other in their need for blood and power, but Zara will not let them go. She promises to try and come up with another plan, one that will let them be free but unable to hurt any humans. The pixies go back inside. Zara and the others duck tape iron utensils around the doors and windows of the house as another precaution against the pixies' escape.
Zara and her mother decide to stay in Maine to help the others keep watch over the trapped pixies. Zara and Nick remain a couple, but Zara worries about the future. She is afraid of herself and what she may become if the pixie king escapes.
Betty tells Zara she can pray for a snow day to cancel school.
Other Belief Systems
Zara's stepfather taught her a ritual snow dance to perform in hopes of canceling school. Zara compares Nick to a god because he can run very fast and not get winded. The entire story revolves around the myth that pixies and werewolves exist. Pixies are said to be one of the Shining Ones, a group that also consists of elves and fairies. They can interact with humans by use of a glamour, a magical spell that makes them look human.
The pixie king must have a mate. If he goes too long without one, he will allow his minions to kidnap young boys and bring them back to their home. There, the pixies will torture them and drain their blood. Weres, or shape shifters, are a pixie's natural enemy. Iron will burn a pixie's skin so they avoid cities, preferring to live in the country where houses are mostly made of stone and wood. Pixie will lure humans out into the woods and confuse them so that they become lost. Humans can help confound the spell by wearing their coats inside out. Scratches on Zara's hands are compared to runes. Zara says her mother tried to read her fortune with rune stones.
H--- and d--n are used. A-- is used alone and with kick, rat's and hard. God's name is used in vain alone and with oh, oh my, hope to, swear to and thank. Jesus' name is also used as is Be-----. Holy is used as an exclamation. Other objectionable words are butt, crap, sucker, fart and p---ed.
The process in which young boys are used as blood tributes for the pixies is graphically described. Their blood is drained, and the boys are tortured in the process. Ian kidnaps Zara to try and turn her into his pixie queen. He knocks her unconscious with a rock. When she refuses to accept his pixie kiss, he throws her across the room, breaking her arm. Ian licks the blood from her wound before he tries to kiss her again. When she places her hand on Ian's face, it burns him. The reader is told that Betty, as a tiger, killed Ian in order to free Zara. Zara finds one of the kidnapped boys tied up in a bedroom in the pixie king's house. His body is bruised and cut in many places. He is weak from the abuse and from his lack of blood.
A student is seen adjusting her breasts under her shirt. The art teacher makes suggestive comments about Nick and Zara's relationship. She pulls her smock down and to reveal her cleavage. A pixie king must kiss his mate in order to turn her into his queen. If the chosen female is human, the kiss can kill her. Nick and Zara kiss on several occasions. Zara's emotions and her body's response to the kissing are described. Betty jokes that she saw Zara and Nick tonsil kissing in the snowstorm. Zara is appalled to learn that her mother had sex with the pixie king to stop him from killing any more boys. On the morning that he died, Zara's stepfather had been talking to her about his gay friends that he wished could marry.
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Readability Age Range
12 and up
Bloomsbury USA Children's, a division of Bloomsbury USA
2008 Texas TAYSHAS reading list pick